Category Archives: Water Quality

Friends of Nelson Press Release: McAuliffe Administration Drops Water Quality Analysis for Virginia Pipelines

Friends of Nelson Press Release, May 25, 2017
Contact: Ernie Reed, Friends of Nelson, 434-249-8330

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has reversed itself, saying that the state agency will not require specific water quality impact analysis for water crossings for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

Contrary to what was reported April 7, DEQ will not require Mountain Valley Pipeline or Atlantic Coast Pipeline to provide details to the department about individual crossings of streams and wetlands to ensure that they will all comply with state water quality standards.[1]

“DEQ is now deciding, unjustifiably, to evade its responsibility to make detailed and public reviews of all threats to water quality posed by these pipeline proposals,” said Ernie Reed, President of Friends of Nelson. “It is the only governmental defense the people have for the protection of our precious and irreplaceable water supplies.”

On April 6, 2017 the DEQ issued a press release affirming that it would conduct individual reviews of waterbody crossings by both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines in Virginia. In that press release, DEQ spokesperson Bill Hayden stated that “these certifications will ensure that Virginia water quality standards are maintained in all areas affected by the projects” and that “the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on these certifications and the conditions required to protect water quality.” In an email from Mr. Hayden that was quoted in the Roanoke Times, Mr. Hayden elaborated on the press release, saying that “[t]he certification looks at each wetland, stream crossing, etc. separately to determine specific requirements that would be necessary”.[2]

Now, James Golden, DEQ’s director of operations, says that “inadequate communication between the department’s technical and public affairs staff led to the publication of an inaccurate description of DEQ’s plans to assess the potential water quality impacts of the two natural gas pipeline projects.”

“For the past seven weeks, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Governor McAuliffe have lived a lie,” Reed said. “Without detailed water analysis, state and federal agencies, impacted localities and property owners, and the public, are left with nothing but the governor’s active suppression of critical information.”

Dozens of citizen groups have worked tirelessly to advocate for a state-level environmental analysis that is more detailed and site-specific than the blanket Federal ”nation-wide” analysis done by the Army Corps of Engineers. A letter to Governor McAuliffe from the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, which documents ongoing communication with the DEQ on this issue, states that “the (DEQ) did not analyze the suitability of (a nation-wide permit) to meet Virginia Water Quality Standards,” and asks “why has the public been misled about your administration’s intentions?”[3]

It was the conclusion and implementation of a state-level water impact analysis in New York State that blocked the construction of the Constitution Pipeline in New York. (On May 16, that decision was appealed by Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC, which proposed the project.) [4]

“The governor’s boast that the ACP would be “the most environmentally responsible pipeline . . . ever built in the history of the United States of America”[5] is “utterly baseless,” Reed said. “The governor would like to bury what a detailed analysis would reveal.”

[1] http://www.roanoke.com/business/news/deq-acknowledges-error-clarifies-approach-to-review-of-pipelines/article_2ea11f0c-1fac-5531-aaae-ba6d7f0b2e0c.html

[2] Duncan Adams, Roanoke Times, DEQ to require pipeline projects to secure state water quality certfication, April 6, 2017, http://www.roanoke.com/business/business/news/frankin_county/deq-to-require-pipeline-projects-to-secure-state-water-quality/article_b146ff9c-af82-500e-af72-eec4077062e2.html

[3] http://pipelineupdate.org/2017/05/25/governor-mcauliffe-must-act-now/

[4] http://constitutionpipeline.com/constitution-pipeline-challenges-decision-by-new-york-state-to-block-federally-approved-pipeline/

[5] Governor McAuliffe, Press Conference endorsing Atlantic Coast Pipeline, September 2, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMn16nJx7OU.  

DEQ Renegs on Commitment


Virginia’s Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced on April 6, 2017, that it would conduct full, site-specific regulatory reviews for both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline under the Clean Water Act and state law. Seven weeks later, on May 24, 2017, DEQ says inaccurate information was provided to the public, and that the DEQ will instead rely on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to examine stream crossings, which will number in the hundreds for each project. Perhaps they should be renamed as the Dept. of Environmental Laxity?

Information, responses, and press coverage of this betrayal of responsibility:

Let the Governor Hear from You!

Tell Governor McAuliffe you will not accept his administration’s failure to do its duty, to protect Virginia’s water and its people – as he has repeatedly promised. Send an email to Governor McAuliffe (c/o Chief of Staff Paul Reagan at paul.reagan@governor.virginia.gov). Or call his office, at 804-786-2211.

DPMC Outlines for DEQ Information Required in Pipeline Applications


On May 15, 2017, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) wrote to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) describing some of the information that companies proposing the MVP and ACP must submit with their applications for Clean Water Act and state law approvals. If all information is not provided, then the DEQ cannot go forward with regulatory reviews of the proposals.

After expressing appreciation for DEQ’s decision to conduct individual reviews for MVP and ACP proposals under Clean Water Act section 401 and Virginia law, DPMC points out that there are “gross deficiencies” in submittals by the pipeline companies as part of the National Environmental Policy Act Reviews being led by FERC, including deficiencies identified by the DEQ, the U.S. Forest Service, and citizens.

For more information, for a listing of the types of information not yet provided for either pipeline, and to read the full DMPC letter, go here.

Blasting Through Streams


More from Dykon Blasting Corp., a contractor doing pipeline construction work for Dominion. On their Web page they boast that “On the Dominion Gas – Appalachian Gateway project [in Pennsylvania], Dykon Blasting Corp. shot over 20,431 lineal feet of trench along with over 16,952 cubic yards of rock! With our efficiency we were able to keep the contractor on schedule and take care of all of the rock removal on the project!” Photos and videos of blasting – difficult to imagine how Dominion can say flora, fauna, and water quality will not be affected.

See also our earlier post on Dykon.

Dominion on Stream Crossings in Nelson


John Minear of Horizons Village says: “This is a photo from our neighbor, Dima Holmes, of the stream that runs between our lots at Horizons Village, taken after the recent rains. These kinds of streams are all over the Blue Ridge area of Nelson County. This is the area that Dominion Energy wants to ‘take’ for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Here is the document that they posted on FERC [on May 12, 2017] detailing stream crossings in Nelson County. They begin with Pond Hollow and move to the Spruce Creek crossing at 151. They ignore the prior Spruce Creek crossing back up stream that goes from Horizons Village to Richard Averitt’s property. They talk about ‘damming’ as their technique.”

FERC/Dominion never make it easy to find anything! (Perhaps they don’t actually want people to find filings and documentation?) To read the document about stream crossings, go to “Public Appendix A Geohazard Report Pt. 11 pdf” in the list of documents on the Ferc ELibrary page. But the report is obviously not complete, since they omit a major crossing of Spruce Creek upstream from Horizons Village.

DPMC Files Another FOIA Request


Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has filed yet another Freedom of Information Act Request with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, asking for critical records related to the ACP, including:

  • Erosion and Sediment Control Plans, including narrative descriptions and schematic depictions or alignment sheets, for the pipeline corridor and other pipeline-related construction activities, including access roads, other workspace and staging areas.
  • Stormwater Management Plans, including narrative descriptions, schematic depictions or alignment sheets and computational spreadsheets, for the pipeline corridor and other pipeline-related construction activities.
  • Descriptive material related to ACP’s “Best in Class” program and other slope-stabilization plans, including narrative descriptions and site-specific designs, depictions and alignment sheets.

Although the Virginia DEQ has announced that it will conduct project-specific 401 Water Quality Certification reviews for both the ACP and the MVP, no one has yet seen complete applications or the detailed plans DPMC is again requesting. Moreover, in correspondence with the DEQ, Dominion contends that Stormwater Management Plans (required of all other significant earth-disturbing projects in Virginia) should not be required because the project will not alter the runoff characteristics of the steep mountainsides and ridge lines it intends to excavate.